I sure hope my friends Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, Jess Reedy, and Emmanuel Johnson aren’t suffering today from the head cold that audibly ailed me on Monday during the recording of today’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Our subject is A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the Tom Hanks-IS-Fred Rogers movie directed by Marielle (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) Heller, loosely fashioned after Tom Junod’s 1998 profile of Rogers for Esquire magazine. As I say in the show, this movie’s depiction of the life of a magazine journalist reflects the circa 1998 expectations on which I based career choices that I have, over the last 20 years, had more than one occasion to lament.
Thanks to all of them for allowing me once again to plug my yulemix. You can hear the show right here or via whatever podfeeder brings you your NPR.
Today’s Pop Culture Happy Hour is a special one for me because Jess Reedy summoned me to huddle with Barry Hardymon, Katie Pressley, and host Stephen Thompson on The Goldfinch — John Crowley’s new film adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt that remains far afield of my usual bailiwicks of fisticuffs and rocketships. Plus I get to shout out Meow Wolf, perhaps the highlight of my visit to New Mexico last week.
Our Pop Culture Happy Hour dissection of Quentin Tarantino’s ninth picture gave me the opportunity to be on a panel with Monica Castillo, a fellow Eugene O’Neill National Critics Institute fellow and someone with whom I’d not previously had the pleasure of speaking, though we have friends and colleagues in common. A fun episode. After some deliberation, we elected to avoid any in-depth discussion of the ending of the film.
Host Linda Holmes is off promoting her already New York Times-bestselling debut novel Evvie Drake Starts Over this month, so Glen and Stephen handled the hosting chores on PCHH this episode, with Mallory Yu and me in chairs three and four to talk about Spider-Man: Far From Home. It is the eighth movie by volume with the proper noun “Spider-Man” in the title since 2002. (For more important data analysis, see my NPR review of the movie.)
I had a nice time joining the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew this week to discuss Shazam!, a lighter, brighter DC Comics movie that is also… a nice time. Doubtless I got invited on this episode because of the profile I wrote for the Ventura County Reporter waaaaaay back in January 2003 of Shazam! star Zachary Levi, a Local Boy Made Good for whom God has opened many doors, such as co-starring with Bob Newhart and the modern rhythm-and-blues singer Sisqo (“The Thong Song,” peak position No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100). He admires men of integrity like Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson. The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Three, friends.
Shazam! is the polar opposite of The Shield, the early-aughts post-Sopranos, pre-Breaking Bad cop show I’m currently revisiting, which is what’s making me happy this week and shall be for many weeks to come, because I bought the big doorstop blu-ray set with all 88 episodes.
I am chuffed to be back on the iHeartRadio Podcast Award-nominated Pop Culture Happy Hour this week to discuss Glass, fallen auteur M. Night Shyamalan’s joint sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split. It isn’t very good, but the movie has an anachronistic quality that’s sort of… sweet. While it’s made explicitly clear—every damn thing in this movie is explained and re-re-re-explained—that Glass is set 19 years after Unbreakable, Shyamalan acts as though superhero comics haven’t become Hollywood’s No. 1 source of grist during the back half of that period. (In the years since Unbreakable, we’ve seen three different A-list actors play The Incredible Hulk, for chrissakes.)
A goodly portion of those films have featured Samuel L. Jackson, who, to be fair, looks like he’s having at least as much fun sitting in a wheelchair staring into the middle distance in Glass as he does when he’s cashing another check as Nick Fury. After his brief return to acting in both Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom and Rian Johnson’sLooper back in 2012, I’d hoped maybe Bruce Willis would deign to open his eyes again, but no such luck. And the movie’s top-billed star continues to perform his solo show Scares Ahoy with James McAvoy.
I’d say it was the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode for which I’ve been training my entire life, except we just did the Die Hard episode. Anyway, I was glad to be part of the elite panel of holiday song-pickers summoned to the National Public Radio today to argue which Christmas song is the Muhammad Ali Greatest of All Time yulejam, and which one is our individual favorite at this particular moment. The stakes in the latter instance are lower, but that only complicates the emotional work of choosing, because the shackles of convention are all the way off!
It says something about the company I was in—PCHH regular Stephen Thompson, plus two very smart NPR Music staffers, Lyndsey McKenna and Marissa Lorusso—that my selections were somehow the most uptempo of the lot. (They’re all lovely people, whose affection for mopey holiday songs is one I very much share. Click on “Musics of Christmas,” above, for years and years of evidence.)
We had to do a Pop Culture Happy Hour discussion of Die Hard because it’s holiday time and because the beloved classic turned 30, uh, back in July and because we just had to. I thought I was being punk’d when I got the invitation but I’m so glad it was real. This was the awkward Christmas Eve holiday party/attempted spousal reconciliation I’ve been waiting to be invited to since I was 11 years old. Yippie kai yay, podcast lovers. (My punishingly long Die Hard Dossier is here.)
I was delighted as always to join my pals Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, and Glen Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour to discuss the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man—a movie that, like the new A Star Is Born, I appreciate more the more I think about it. Somehow we managed to avoid re-litigating the great La La Land controversy during this conversation. (My bomb-throwing position: It’s good!) When I used the word Weldonian in the studio, Glen nearly tore his rotator cuff making the “cut” gesture, but cooler, more hirsute heads—those of producers Jessica Reedy and Vincent Acovino—prevailed. You can hear the episode here. Continue reading →
Sure, he’s a weird guy. But Tom Cruise is the greatest onscreen runner since that horse that Eadweard Muybridge photographed in 1872 to prove that all four hooves of a galloping stallion leave the ground.
Here’s our Pop Culture Happy Hour on the triumph that is Mission: Impossible — Fallout. Any Cruiselike zealotry in my voice is purely intentional. To watch a two-star action movie with Linda Holmes is a five-star experience. To watch a five-star action movie with her is an M:I-6 star experience.
I had a lovely time dissecting the laughably derivative, greenscreeny pleasures of Skyscraper with Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts Linda Holmes and Stephen Thompson and fellow friend-of-the-show Margaret H. Willison. This movie wants to be Die Hard, and it isn’t even as good as Johnson’s own Central Intelligence or Rampage. It’s maybe on par with San Andreas. Continue reading →
I saw a review headline earlier today proclaiming Ant-Man and The Wasp “the perfect summer movie.” I could easily name 20 perfect movies released during the summergoing back to Jaws, released the summer before I was, but the phrase “a perfect summer” movie almost invariably refers to movies that aren’t very good.
Ant-Man and The Wasp isn’t Not Good. It is, as my pal and editor and occasional (today!) Pop Culture Happy Hour panel-mate Glen Weldon observed in his review, fine.
Here’s my review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. That link will also take you to where you can hear Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, and Glen Weldon discuss the movie and its place in the Jurassic-iad with me in the fourth chair.
I regret that it never occurred to me to refer to this film as Jurassic 5 even though “Sum of Us” is an all-timer shadowboxing jam. I also regret that none of us, not even Thompson, thought to mention the moment in Jurassic 5 when it seems like Ted Levine from The Silence of the Lambs is about to start singing “See My Vest.” You’ll know the one I mean.
It was my happy task to join Daisy Rosario, Stephen Thompson, and Glen Weldon for a sadly Linda Holmes-free PCHH dissecting Deadpool 2, a movie that in my view succeeds utterly in being the meaningless and mercilessly self-trolling thing it sets out to be. To paraphrase the critic Homer Simpson, writing in Cahiers du Cinéma: I prefer to watch John Wick.
It’s no shocker that I loved Wes Anderson’s new stop-motion adventure of Isle of Dogs. It’s a mild shocker that I didn’t cry watching it. Either time! My NPR review is here. UPDATE: I’m on the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode where we hash over some of charges of insensitivity and cultural appropriate that a few critics have levied against the movie, too. That’s on the same page as the review, but you can hear below, too.
Here is a joke you will not hear on today’s episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour, wherein I join old friends Linda Holmes and Stephen Thompson and new friend Daisy Rosario to dissect (heh) Annihilation, the new thriller from Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland starring Natalie Portman and involving lots of cool but hella gross body horror stuff: Continue reading →
Any debate over whether Blade Runner 2049, a 35-years-later sequel to the cultiest cult film in the history of movies, has general-interest appeal should be put to rest by virtue of the fact that Stephen Thompson—the host of the three-way discussion of the film the comprises today’s Pop Culture Happy Hour—liked it, too! Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon and I are this movie’s core constituency. But when the Kung Fu Panda-loving Mr. Thompson gives his approval to an intense, nearly-three-hour dystopian future flick, you know it’s got some moves.
You can listen in here, where the episode is posted along with my review from last week. I had to write it just a couple of hours after I saw Blade Runner 2049, but I think the piece stands up. I’m seeing the movie again tomorrow night at the National Air and Space Museum. I’m looking forward to spending another 163 minutes with a new stone classic.
The Mondo two-LP blue-and-yellow-vinyl edition of the soundtrack to David Leitch’s stylish Charlize Theron-headlined, set-in-1989 espionage thriller Atomic Blonde that I ordered won’t arrive for several weeks, I’m told. Until then you and I will just have to make do with our extant libraries of New Order, The Clash, A Flock of Seagulls, etc. And with this thrilling recorded-in-one take episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour, wherein host Linda Holmes and regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon brought me in to talk about how much we all like watching Ms. Theron kick ass. It’s a lot more satisfying that watching her play second-fiddle to some grunting no-talent clown in a tank top.
My pal-for-life Glen Weldon is Down Under this week—like Quigley, like Jackman, like Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee—but I was glad to be part of a reduced Pop Culture Happy Hour panel along with host Linda Holmes and regular Stephen Thompson to dissect the messy but fascinating prequel-sequel Alien: Covenant and to marvel at how the political satire Veep has stayed so strong for six seasons. At the end of the episode, I give a little love to little-loved—by me, anyway—replacement 007 Sir Roger Moore, who passed away this week at the age of 89. You can hear the full episode here or embedded below. Continue reading →
I’m on Pop Culture Happy Hour today for the first time since our bummed-out post-election Pop Culture Serotonin Spectacular. And it was all the way back in December 2015 that I last shared the studio with the great Gene Demby of the Code Switch blog and podcast, when we broke down Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I always feel things have gone well when I’m with Gene; he’s a calming presence I guess. Most of this week’s episode was recorded live on stage in Chicago at last week, and neither Gene not I were present for that, so we’re in the first segment only. The topic is The Fate of the Furious, a film I reviewed… unfavorably. Continue reading →